Five decades of Harvard basketball players have asked themselves, "Where do we go from here?" And for five decades they've snapped back, "Up, Mac, Up. There's nowhere else to go."
After Wednesday's shellacking from Pennsylvania, the team may have asked itself the same question, for it shoulders a record of nine defeats and sits ignominiously in the depths of the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League.
Quite unknown to the majority of players, their coaches, and even the fans, such a sitting position is no novelty to Harvard quintets. Over five decades of recorded basketball history the varsity finds itself the blushing possessor of one of the worst win-loss records at the College.
Here are the statistics:
--In 22 years of competition in the EIBL only twice has the varsity won more games than it has lost. These were the years 1906, when the team won six and lost four, and 1938, when it won seven and lost five. It has never won the title.
--Considering last season's opponents, in competition going back as far as 1900, the quintet has a better than 50-50 record with only two out of 17 teams, Tufts and Boston University.
--During the past 15 years, from the beginning of the modern, fast-breaking game in 1939, the five has won more games than it has lost on only three occasions.
--Since statistical records began in 1900, a total of ten coaches have put Crimson potentials through their paces.
In the sporting world these and all statistics speak ever so much louder than words, even words which have been shoed for five decades. In the record books these statistics may become glorious chronologies of a fertile tradition which somehow pulls a losing team through in the clutch. Mysteriously, they can send out feelers into the schoolboy world, attracting potential stars who want to continue a tradition or learn a sport better than they can anywhere else.
It may be a tradition like Harvard and Squash, or Columbia and Fencing, or Lehigh and Wrestling. It doesn't have to be a winning tradition, though that's usually the first requirement. And it doesn't have to produce stars, but they usually crop up.
The basketball tradition behind the 1954 quintet just doesn't exert such an allure. No year stands out in most coaches' minds as the glorious "It" year. No silver cups line the shelves of Harvard players. And no one proudly dangles a gold ball from his key chain as a symbol of an undefeated or championship year.
Like almost no other undergraduate sport, Harvard basketball brings a blank and a scowl to the faces of grads recalling their sporting years in college. Even the undergraduate mind has become conditioned to expect defeat and disappointment.
In a moment of utmost pessimism one might suppose that the only Harvard basketball tradition is a defeated tradition.
This fall basketball fans saw great things for their team as it took game after game. But tomorrow night against Yale--a team which has defeated the Crimson 70 percent of the time--the Crimson record stands as one-sided as over.